Thursday November 2, 7:00pm
Dia de los Muertos 2006
Dia de los Muertos features
Dia de los Muertos
An Air of Mystery
by Tanya Jones
Photos by Luke Hauser, ©2004 by RQ.
Always an air of mystery swirls within us.
Deep at the core of all existence is the magnetic transformative occurrence we call death. Death is so great that we cannot escape it. Deep and ineffable, like an abyss beyond the horizon of our minds, it looms in the shadows. Yet it is present at every moment, motivating our lives whether we are aware of it or not.
On November 2, the streets of the Mission District will be adorned with flowers, candles, and offerings to honor death and the inspiration of life in a uniquely San Francisco display of Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead. Upwards of 15,000 people will gather to join in a luminous celebration of song, dance, art, and ritual in a procession leading to Garfield Park.
At Garfield Park, five altar installations, reflecting this year's theme, "Death on a Social Level," will provide the public a common space to commune with the dead and experience the elemental forces that unite us all.
Traditionally, Dia de Los Muertos has roots both in pre-Hispanic Aztec philosophy and religion combined with Medieval European ritual practice. Aztec altars were considered a threshold between heaven and earth, where a reunion between the living and the dead could occur. A colorful, cheerful atmosphere filled with toys and food served to take the fear out of death, especially for children.
In San Francisco the event has evolved to reflect the diverse culture, vitality, and richness of our present community. While inspired by its Latino roots, the San Francisco procession and altars actively encourage participation by people of all origins in sharing their traditions regarding death in this pan-denominational festival. In honoring the dead in a communal setting, many are able to cut through the clutter of their day-to-day lives and experience something deeper than they would usually find in public among strangers. It can be very humbling, while giving rise to the sense of something larger; an interconnection that weaves all the cosmos into one creative organism.
This year's theme is "Death on a Social Level." So much of how we view death is dictated by our society and the economic culture. For many, death does not come with ease, as brightly lit hospitals designed to prolong the process can create a costly, stressful, painful, and degrading finale to life. Thousands of lives are lost, animals made extinct, and forests destroyed in war over cheap cars, gasoline, and power struggles, heedless of the impact our actions have on the planet and myriad life forms that share this home. We must take a deeper look at how our society exploits the Earth's resources and the deathly ramifications in this ever-widening gap between our humanity and the whole of nature. The altars can provide a meditative place of guidance, where our perceptions about death can come into better balance with life. If we are to ask ourselves how we can live in accordance with something more meaningful, beneficial and satisfying, then we can by no means avoid the great mysterious world of death. Come help us realize this beautiful celebration and honoring of our ancestors.
We will be hosting fundraisers this Fall, and we would love to see you there! For more information, please visit www.dayofthedeadsf.org
Photos ©2004 by Luke Hauser, Reclaiming Quarterly, except top collage ©2000 Rene Velasco for Reclaiming Quarterly. Please do not copy, reproduce, fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise use them without written permission. Thanks!
Luke Hauseris a freelance parajournalist in the service of the Goddess and planetary revolution. His photo-filled book Direct Action is an historical novel about Bay Area protests.
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